Growing ‘Sextortion’ threat seeks to blackmail kids

Photo by Porapak Apichodilok from Pexels

Kids’ use of cell phones and other electronic devices has long put them at risk for a variety of online dangers.

Now kids are facing a new menace from predators who threaten to control, injure or otherwise blackmail them into providing inappropriate images or personal information to someone they have met online.

Called “Sextortion,” cybercrime uses non-physical forms of coercion such as blackmail, to acquire sexual content, engage in sex, or obtain money from kids by sending so-called “Sext” messages to their cell phones or other devices.

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s, (NCMEC), between October 2013 and April 2016, 1,428 minors between the ages of 8 and 17 years reported receiving Sextortion messages. Of those, 78 percent were female while 15 percent were male

“Those involved with sextortion of children often approach a child on social media after learning about the child’s interests, friends, school or family.” the NCMEC said in a written statement. “then they often move their communications with the child from one online platform to another – such as from social media to private video or messaging apps.”

Here’s how they connect – 

  • Reciprocation (I’ll show you if you show me)
  • Offering money or drugs in exchange for sexually explicit photos or videos
  • Pretending to work for a modeling agency in order to obtain sexually explicit photos of the child
  • Developing a friendship or romantic bond with the child
  • Secretly recording explicit videos during video chats
  • Threatening to physically hurt or assault the child or members of its family
  • Pretending to be younger or a member of the opposite sex than they really are
  • Threatening to commit suicide if the child fails to provide information the “Sextortionist” seeks
  • Threatening to post explicit conversations or images online.

Kids become potential Sextortion targets by –

  • Lying about their ages in order to access platforms that allow them to communicate with older individuals
  • Offering to provide explicit images in exchange for alcohol, drugs, gifts or financial compensation
  • Sending explicit photos or videos – so-called “sexts” to themselves or others

Parents who suspect that their children have been victimized by a Sextortionist should visit https://report.cybertip.org/ or call the NCMEC at 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678 anytime 24-hours a day.

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